These times are strange for many business-to-business (B2B) marketers. Perhaps you’ve had to pause your demand generation campaigns. You are likely working remotely, with kids and pets constantly disrupting your conference calls. You are likely not traveling to any industry conferences in the near future to network and capture new opportunities for your business. And now, you may be wondering how you will ever set your company up for success later this year as you head into the “new normal.”
Know that you’re not alone. One tactic that can help is focusing on your buyer data. In today’s world—virtual or not—data provides the foundation for B2B marketing success in both the short- and long-term. And it’s not just any data; it needs to be data that is comprehensive, accurate, up-to-date, and usable. In a word, it needs to be “quality” data.
Quality data can come from two general sources—internal and external—and data from both sources have important roles to play. But internal data can be both richer and more practical for organizations. Why is internal data—data that your company collects through its own internal processes—a key to successful, efficient B2B marketing efforts? Without high-quality data cultivated from within the organization, it is much more difficult to effectively generate quality leads, connect with prospects efficiently and at relevant times along their buying journeys, and cultivate rich relationships with customers.
Where do you start to collect internal data? There are multiple ways to build a robust database. Often B2B organizations do this via a CRM like Salesforce, but there are other tools you can use to collect and activate data, including a customer data platform (CDP), marketing automation platforms, and more. In this post, we will address some useful tactics for implementing internal data collection and activation (regardless of where you store it), so you can set up your B2B marketing programs for success.
Many companies use their CRMs to primarily house billing contacts for existing customers. And when it comes to using that data for marketing efforts and targeting (either up-sell targeting, or look-alike modeling to identify new buyers that match the profile of your current buyers), effectiveness will be low unless you happen to only be targeting purchasing individuals. The solution is to ensure that your sales team incorporates information from all the members of their customers’ buying committees when adding contacts to your database.
The larger the customer and/or the budget the customer has to make a purchase, the larger the team of individuals who are likely playing a part in deciding and influencing the purchase. In fact, according to recent findings by Gartner, a typical buying group for complex B2B solutions involves six to ten decision makers. ALL these contacts are valuable and should be captured. The more contacts you have within that buying committee, the more segmented and personalized your approach can be.
Identifying in advance the ways you expect to connect to individuals is important in order to establish the fields you’ll need in your database for each contact. Without this step, you may end up with “skeleton contacts” consisting of only one or two data fields (e.g., an email address with no phone number, or a physical mailing address with no email, etc.). Furthermore, if your sales team doesn’t have a consistent and common set of fields to complete, they may end up capturing a variety of fields, resulting in inconsistent information and making some contacts more or less helpful than others for marketing purposes.
Typically, the basic, essential data points include: name, title, a physical address or branch location, work email address, and phone number. Additionally, adding information about the customers’ preferred social media channels (for work) is a bonus that can add some flexibility to your marketing efforts of reaching them. These data points enable audience matching, lookalike modeling, and other common tactics used in digital marketing today.
Once you’ve established your database, keep in mind that it is not a static asset; it’s a living, evolving work-in-progress. Expect your contacts to change jobs, obtain new job titles, work for companies that are acquired by other companies, and/or change locations—frequently.
Nothing makes a worse impression than sending an email with the wrong name in the subject line or using a job title that is from two or three assignments ago. And nothing is more wasteful than spending money trying to reach contacts that no longer work for the company that you’re targeting.
The solution to these issues includes cleansing your data regularly, auditing your data, and appending additional external data sources to enrich your data and keep it up to date. Some B2B data providers, like DiscoverOrg, ZoomInfo, Datanyze, and Dun & Bradstreet will even audit, cleanse, and enrich your data for you, directly within your Salesforce or your marketing automation platform.
If you are at the beginning stages of compiling buyer data, you’ll want to entice prospects to opt-in to your marketing communications by offering something of value in exchange for their information, AND by making the opt-in process frictionless. For example, requiring a minimal amount of information on the first touchpoint makes it easy to opt-in—and you can always follow up with contacts and complete their profiles later: this is an approach commonly known as progressive profiling.
A good rule of thumb is to ask for only the information that is required to qualify prospects for the initial sign-up. Then, as they interact with your marketing efforts and content and begin sending additional buying signals, you can build out their profiles by collecting more data points.
Another possible outcome of this adversarial approach is when marketing and sales set up and use their own independent databases. This situation creates a whole host of inefficiencies and administrative headaches (e.g., trying to create, maintain and use two separate databases when it is difficult and expensive to cultivate just one well). Inevitably, multiple databases result in duplication of contacts, which can lead to multiple, uncoordinated messages reaching prospects at the same time.
For example, sales may be targeting select buyers with a specific message or promotion, while marketing is promoting a totally different offer or message to those same audiences. The result? Instead of buyer relevance, your efforts may result in buyer confusion.
Organizations need to understand that there are almost always ways to “share” data while still protecting the interests of multiple internal functions – for example, anonymizing data for use in targeting. With communication and compromise, collectively your teams can reach mutually satisfactory solutions.
Perhaps the most important consideration of building and leveraging internal customer data today is data privacy. Marketers now have to navigate much more complex regulations when it comes to using personal identifiable information (PII), driven by the increasingly recognized need for data security.
Fines and penalties are becoming larger with each new legislation, so much so that incurring such a fine could significantly impact an organization’s profitability, not to mention the PR impact of a data privacy breach. Above all, organizations need to follow the rules and make sure they have the right permissions for the data they collect, as well as full transparency into how that data will be used.
Modern business-to-business marketing is fueled by efforts that require quality data: from account-based marketing to lead nurturing to marketing automation. But the reality remains: B2B buyer data decays at a rate of 70% per year—and according to Dun & Bradstreet, more than half of B2B marketers are not confident in the quality of their data. So, these best practices are something to build into your on-going standard operating procedures.
We are entering the “new normal,” but with everything that has changed, one thing remains the same: having ready-to-use B2B buyer data remains critical for your organization to conduct effective demand generation efforts and deliver results. So set your business up for success by focusing on what matters most—your buyers—by having the right data to reach and engage them, now and in the future.